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Christmas in Spain?



CHRISTMAS IN SPAIN - WHAT TO DO, WHERE TO GO

Spain originally attracted most of its visitors during the hot, sunny months of summer, but this is gradually changing and many more people are opting to have a Spanish break in winter.

In part, this is to "get away" from the pressures which Christmas forces on them in their home country. But, more and more, visitors are realising what a fine choice of things are on offer to them for Christmas in Spain.

First of all are the splendid beach holidays. Although not as hot at Christmas as in the summer, it is usually warm and sunny along the Mediterranean coast and even hotter in the paradisiac Canary Islands.

But, what are often overlooked are the marvellous mountains of the country. Spain is the second most mountainous country in Europe after Switzerland and offers more than twenty ski-ing areas.

The Spanish have long made use of the country s beautiful mountains to enjoy ski-ing and, although many of the ski resorts here are still relatively unspoilt, there is no doubt that ski-ing in Spain is rapidly becoming very popular, with a larger international client le arriving on its snowy slopes each year.

Spain s main mountains for ski-ing are the Pyrenees in the north, and the Sierra Nevada in the south. However, there is also some ski-ing done in the mountains immediately to the north of Madrid and to the north-west of the coastal city of Valencia.

The Sierra Nevada Mountains comprise the most southerly ski-ing area in Europe, offering a good range of hotel and self-catering accommodation plus health and leisure facilities: a very popular place to spend Christmas in Spain!

It is also only half-an-hour away from the fascinating city of Granada and the coast, which broadens your horizons - especially if you have a car.

Heading for the Pyrenees Mountains in the north, you will find that one of the biggest and best resorts here is Baqueira-Beret, in the beautiful Vall d Aran.

Other Spanish Pyrenean resorts include Salardu, Candanchu, Cerler, Formigal, Panticosa and La Molina.

Whether you choose beach or mountains, you will surely enjoy your Christmas in Spain!

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A TRADITIONAL CHRISTMAS IN SPAIN

So what, exactly, does a traditional Christmas in Spain consist of?

The Spanish did not originally celebrate Christmas (or Navidad in Spanish) but gave their gifts on 6 January, which is Kings Day, or el D a de Reyes.

However, being a pleasure-loving and generous race, they have gradually adopted Christmas as well, and just enjoy the extra celebrations!

The first of the Christmas celebrations starts on Christmas Eve or Noche Buena when family and loved ones gather together at home in the evening and have a slap-up meal.

This meal does not necessarily have to be turkey - just your favorite food - although I do notice that, each year, there are more and more turkeys for sale in the shops.

On 25 December, Christmas Day or Navidad, the presents are opened, there is another big meal and a lot of turr n (nougat) will be eaten; perhaps, after a few glasses of vino, villancicos (Christmas carols) will be sung.

There is then a slight break in your Christmas in Spain celebrations until New Year s Eve or Noche Vieja, which is either celebrated in the home or by going out on the town.

Either way, for your celebrations, you will need a bottle of cava - Spanish champagne, which is excellent - plus twelve grapes!

This is because, when midnight comes and the New Year is chimed in, you will have to eat one grape at each chime. If you succeed in eating all the grapes (one at a time please!) within the 12 seconds of the chimes, you will have a prosperous New Year!

Many people in Spain will be wearing red underwear during these celebrations, for it is considered "lucky" to be wearing something red when the New Year enters!

Another short break in your Christmas in Spain celebrations - until 6 January to be precise, which is when Kings Day or el D a de Reyes is celebrated. This has always been the traditional present-giving time in Spain and is more for the children.

The Three Kings - Beltsasar, Gaspar and Melcior - will visit each home on their camels during the night (you many leave them a little drink and biscuits if you wish) and, if the children have been good, they will be left presents.

If, however, the child has been naughty, a lump of coal is given instead of presents! Of course, this rarely happens! However, the bakers shops do sell lumps of "coal", which are greyish-black lumps of sugar and used more as a joke!

So, Feliz Navidad to you all and enjoy your Christmas in Spain, be it sunbathing on the beach or ski-ing down the mountains!


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